this may be of some local interest
This is a new series I've begun to serve as an ad hoc glossary of specific football concepts/terminology that get thrown around in our articles. The plan is to discuss as they come up and then (probably forget to) link them when we're talking about this stuff down the road.
REACH BLOCK DEFINED
When an offensive lineman blocks a defensive player who's lined up playside of him. For example on this play Mason Cole is going to block this guy:
…on a play going to the right of him. In other words this play is going to the defender's left, and it's Mason Cole's job is to be in the way of that defender going left.
HOW DO YOU DO THAT?
There are lots of O-line technique videos out there but here's the simplest:
The reaching blocker takes a short (that's key) step at an angle toward the defender's opposite shoulder. That puts him in a stance sort of like that of an Olympic sprinter, so his next step can launch him across that defender and get your helmet across the defender's torso. Lock in that victory by putting the inside arm into the defender's outside number, and pivot around to seal. The key is quick feet and a wide stance to not get off-balance—remember the defender is also fighting.
IS THAT HARD?
Yuh huh. The lineman has a fraction of a second between when the ball is snapped and the defense starts to read the blocking to get around that guy, get leverage, and seal the dude being blocked before dude can put a stop to this. It is the hardest of blocks.
Coaches emphasize different talking points but the basics are a short first step toward the outside shoulder, get your arms into him and your head across to seal, all the while keeping your feet apart so don't get knocked off.
Back when (IU OL coach) Greg Frey was at Michigan under Rich Rod, Michigan would try this a handful of times a game, and Molk was better at this than just about anyone I've watched closely. In fact Brian had a Picture Pages in 2008 to show Molk getting a guy lined up outside the guard.
Michigan tried a bunch in 2007, when they were a zone stretch team. This had varying results: Jake Long and (former tight end) Adam Kraus could pull it off occasionally; Justin Boren, Jeremy Ciulla, Alex Mitchell and Reuben Riley were comically bad at it. Against FBS competition it takes a very agile player.
[After THE JUMP: running it, and defending it]
You like what you’re seeing so far?
“Guys have worked extremely hard. Coach runs a great camp. We don’t waste a second, and that gives us a chance to get better physically, get better mentally, demeanor-wise, the whole deal. It’s been a tremendous couple of weeks here and just looking forward to shifting gears here and getting ready to play meaningful games.”
What’s different about a Jim Harbaugh camp than any others you’ve been in?
“Just efficient. You know, every second’s accounted for. Players, coaches, you all know where to be. We all know. We’re taking advantage of every second, staying within the rules. And it gives the guys a chance mentally to learn the system, which is an important piece for us. As I’ve said before, we put in the concepts in the spring and now we’re trying to master those concepts. We maximize our meeting time and Coach does a good job of knowing when to crank it up and knowing when to take it back, so it’s been great.”
Who are some of the Dudes so far in camp?
“We’ve got a lot of Dudes. We’ve got a lot of guys playing well. The guys that are fairly typical up front. I think Wormley’s had a good camp. Taco Charlton’s had a good camp. Bryan Mone, in my opinion, is from here [hand low] to here [hand high] from spring. You know, obviously he was coming off an injury so. Ryan Glasgow’s the real deal; very physical. We feel good about a bunch of those guys. Rashan Gary’s certainly going to be in the mix, but he’s got a learning curve as well. We’re happy with the front.
“At linebacker, the biggest thing with Ben Gedeon is he’s had to go from being a contributing linebacker playing some to it’s his show. Not easy to do. In fact, hard to do. So, I think he’s done an outstanding job in that area. Wroblewski…I don’t know. Probably doesn’t run as fast as some guys. Probably doesn’t hit quite as hard as some guys, but he just finds a way to help us so I’m very happy with him. I think Jabrill’s had an outstanding preseason camp, and Noah Furbush has a chance to be a real-deal guy. Mike McCray continues to be steady eddy, and Devin Bush is really doing well. I’m happy with the young guys. Uche is what we anticipated as a pass-rush guy, and he’s learning the Sam position better than expected. Devin Gil coming along as well and Elyse Mbem-Bosse, so those are the three rookies there.
“Then in the secondary, those guys are all good players, the veteran guys, and the addition of Khaleke Hudson—I think he has a chance to really help us this year. David Long—really happy with him. Special player as a freshman, and a very…he’s a professional. Comes in, notebook’s open, taking notes, being sharp, doing all those things. And there’s a number of guys—it’s probably really unfair, because I can’t think of anybody that I, like, ‘Oh geez, I gotta straighten this dude out.’ But it’s been a good camp and the guys are working hard, and that’s all you can ask.”
The veteran players you talked about, they’re in their third defensive coordinator in three years--
“Yeah, it’s hard now.”
How have those guys made the transition to yet another defensive coordinator?
“I don’t know, you gotta ask them, you know. I mean, I enjoy working with them. I’ve got great guys. I enjoy my room. Maybe it’s my age, whatever. I really don’t care too much about all this stuff but I do care about my room and coaching those guys and trying to get them to whatever their dreams are as a football player. That’s what I’m focused on. So, you know, you’d have to ask them, I guess.”
Are you seeing a willingness out of them to learn?
“Oh yeah. I mean, they got no choice. But, for a lot of reasons. You know, I don’t need anybody to hold my hand, you know what I mean? The bottom line is you’d like them to have that kind of a feeling and affinity towards what we’re doing. I think we do. They certainly seem willing. And we’re flying around out there, so that’s a positive.”
[After THE JUMP: “…I can assure you I’m not just looking at it (like), ‘Oh, okay, they’re going to run the zone read and we’re just going to throw this one against the wall and see if it works.’ I’m too old for that.”]
[At this point I left the scrum to go talk with Tim Drevno. I transcribed the rest from video posted at Maize and Blue News.]
If you had to pinpoint one aspect of something that impresses you with what’s being accomplished with your unit, could you find one?
“How much we’ve absorbed. You know, I was kind of—came in and had phase one, phase two and then if I’m fortunate we’ll do phase three. I’m in phase three, so I feel pretty good about the learning curve and what they’ve been able to digest. We’re not perfect. Hopefully we can get close to…you know, the efficiency thing is what Coach talks about all the time. He just talked to the players about it with great points. That’s what we’ve got to be. We’ve got to be efficient a week from next Saturday. That’s the whole goal is try and get your guys efficient.”
I think a Big Ten analyst said this is going to be a high-risk, high-reward defense. Is that--
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s a bunch of baloney. The high risk—no. We don’t just throw this stuff against the wall and take it and go, ‘Oh, I’m gonna run this play.’ Come on. We’re not doing that. We look at the formation, we look at the personnel groups. We lean to be on the aggressive side.
“Whether you’re running or passing the ball, we’re gonna have the ability when we dictate to come. That’s what it’s all about. And I can assure you that every one of the calls we’ve made—we’ve done kind of a thorough study—we’ll at least have run it 100 times. So, we’re not throwing things against the wall. It’s not that kind of a scenario. I guess say it because you’re playing man coverage and those types of things.
“Well, guess what: that’s what…Mike Zordich and Brian Smith, they’re accomplished teachers. If you call that high risk because we’re going to come out and play you like this [steps toward some reporters]…well, I don’t call that high risk. That’s just part of the deal.
“One thing we believe in is we deny free access, okay? We’re not going to play eight to 10 yards off and let you play that game all the time. Now, you’ll see us play off, but we determine when we do that. We’re gonna be able to do it all, but I can assure you I’m not just looking at it [like], ‘Oh, okay, they’re going to run the zone read and we’re just going to throw this one against the wall and see if it works.’ I’m too old for that.”
With all of that said, how important is physicality and how impressed have you been with this group?
“There’s been some days out there where I’ve stood behind the 9-on-7s—and that’s nine offensive players against the seven defensive players—and it’s kind of a ‘Ooh’ cringe mode [on] both sides, now. So, I’ve been happy with that. I think when we go ‘On your mark, get set, go’ I don’t have any question that we’re going to go.
“But it’s a fine line because you’re tying to get Barney and Sally and everybody else to the dance, so, you know, there’s kind of a combination deal there that you’ve got to pay attention to. But again, Coach does such a good job of taking care of us it’s a non-issue.”
Channing Stribling had a great spring. How’s he played in the fall?
“Good. Really solid. I think the one thing we’ve been able to get through to him is it’s not just about defending out there. You’ve got to come in here and work the run game, be a part of that, too. But no, he’s a solid guy. Working hard. Happy with him.”
MGoQuestion: Last we heard Ben Bredeson was taking snaps at left tackle. Do you see that as his long-term future, or do you see him sloting in somewhere else along the line?
“Yeah, he’s a really talented football player and can really play a lot of different positions. Put him out there at left tackle. Just like his foot turn, his speed, his initial quickness. Just trying to figure out the best five out there and the best six and seven. He’s really had a nice camp and is doing a really, really good job. Intelligent guy. Really good football awareness. Can fix a problem after you tell him, so it’s exciting to see that.”
Where do you stand with the quarterbacks? Have you narrowed it down?
“It’s been an unbelievable competition. Guys are coming out every day throwing great balls, great drops, great precision, great timing. I mean, we’re way further along than where we’ve been. I mean quarterback-wise last year. We haven’t made the decision and we don’t want to make the decision too early and make the wrong decision. So, we’ll keep going along here and then we’ll gather together and make that decision.”
You had seen the difference between Jake and Shane somewhat early in camp last year you guys had said even though you didn’t make the decision until later. What’s the difference between Wilton and John at this point?
”For me to say that, it’d be like splitting an atom. I mean, it’s like…they’re all doing really good and they all bring something different to the table and they’re all working hard and competing and we keep evaluating the tape and putting more on them and as they digest it we’ll make that decision.”
A couple freshmen Coach Harbaugh mentioned were doing well on the offensive line. Do you have a set starting five?
“No, no. Ben Bredeson’s really been stepping up there good. We’ve been working him at left tackle. He’s doing a really, really nice job. Michael Onwenu’s done a great job. He’s D-line and comes back. I mean, this offensive system that we have here is a lot to learn. He’s done a good job. And Stephen Spanellis, a big strong guy, we moved him in to guard. He’s doing a really good job. We’re really pleased where we are with the young guys than we were last year in terms of the retention. And the older guys in the room have done a great job. I know during the summer by NCAA rules we can’t get together with them but I heard through the grapevine those guys were getting together and watching tape and really sitting down and getting better as an offensive line.”
Did those young guys make it harder for you this year than you were expecting in camp to settle on--
“Yeah, it did, which is nice. It’s a pleasure to have that. You come out and see a guy coming out and competing against a senior defensive lineman and blocking him you’re going, ‘Hey, that’s pretty good.’ I mean, that’s a big, strong guy across from him that he’s blocking, so that’s exciting.”
You’ve said in the past that you don’t really care if a freshman starts, you’ve done it before. Would you be comfortable with Ben starting at left tackle?
“I would. I would. And nothing’s been set this time but we’ll just keep competing there at that spot and see how it all works out. But he has all the skill set, the mental capacity, the physicality, all the characteristics you look for to be a starter. He’s a special young player and he’s got a chance to have a really, really good future.”
Has anybody nailed down a spot? Not five, but is there two? Three?
“It’s day-to-day, but if we played a game Magnuson would be at right tackle, Kyle Kalis at right guard, Mason at the center spot, Ben Braden at left guard, and then it’s Grant Newsome and Ben Bredeson battling it out at the left tackle. But things could change from there. If we played a game tomorrow, that’d be it.”
[After THE JUMP: a little bit about every offensive position group, plus what M looks for in an offensive lineman]
This is our weekly roundtable, brought back from its offseason slumber because you really don't want to know what we are obsessing about in the offseason. If you ever have any topic suggestions, send them to seth at mgoblog dot com.
Sleeper player of the year? Who are we not talking about that we'll be talking about?
Brian: So not Wheatley then.
Ace: I’m partway into an answer that starts with a mention of Ian Bunting (not my choice) being an option because of our constant Wheatley hype.
Brian: And not Hudson then.
Ace: Options on the ground are very limited unless we’re allowing anyone who hasn’t been a full-time starter already. I was going to go with Dymonte Thomas.
Brian: I don't think I can do this if I can't talk about Wheatley and Hudson.
Ace: I wouldn’t veto Wheatley/Hudson talk even if I could.
Brian: A man needs a code. Can't talk about guys we're talking about. I will persist.
BiSB: Allow me to parse the rule: you can't talk about Hudson and Wheatley in general because your feelings are well known, but you CAN talk about them in the specific context of 2016, as such things are NOT known.
Like, Khaleke Hudson will invade and overrun Persia by the time he's a Junior, but will we see him as a true freshman toppling some minor Greek city-state?
Ace: Please let it be Sparta. #ancientdisrespekt
Seth: This is This Week's Obsession, not Nam. There are rules.
[After THE JUMP we actually do answer the question]
Lot of talent, lot of talent. CBS draft analyst Dane Brugler:
I've been watching #Michigan tape all morning and I'm not even halfway through the roster. Should have double-digit draft picks next spring.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 22, 2016
Per NFL scouts, Butt and Charlton(!) could be high first round picks:
I asked 6 NFL scouts for their top senior NFL prospect:
DL Jonathan Allen (2 votes), TE Jake Butt (2), DL Taco Charlton, CB Desmond King.
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 23, 2016
Juniors will pile in, of course, but if that holds to draft day both those guys would go in the top 15. I can't imagine it would—QBs and various other players at positions the NFL drafts higher than TE will emerge—but I be like dang anyway.
Todd McShay has Michigan third on his list of teams with the most NFL talent, and while having no idea what happened in the draft last year…
Last year, QB Jake Rudock (sixth round) was the lone Wolverine selected
…is not a great look for a draft analyst, ESPN currently projects seven players to be off the board by the end of the third round:
- #31 Jake Butt: "Has very good natural combination of size and speed to create mismatches. Adept at playing in-line (Y), flexed out (F) and split out wide. Very fluid for his size. … Gets overmatched physically at the point of attack by bigger defensive linemen."
- #33 Jabrill Peppers: "Good cover skills for a safety. Has lots of experience playing man-coverage both in the slot and on perimeter. At his best in man-coverage. Lacks elite fluidity in hips, but has quick feet and good burst. … Willing but could also be more aggressive at times. [ed: ?!?!?]"
- #39 Jourdan Lewis: "was in the hip pocket of Michigan State WR Aaron Burbridge (6th round pick, 49ers) hip pocket the entire 2015 game (stats are deceiving). Displays excellent body control and balance. Shows good deep speed on tape."
- #46 Jehu Chesson: "Very good speed for size and can threaten vertically. Gets from 0-to-60 miles per hour in a hurry. Has length and tracking ability to create matchup problems for average-to-smaller cornerbacks on 50-50 balls…. Excellent effort as a blocker. … Love watching this guy play the game."
- #56 Chris Wormley: "Excellent size and good overall strength. Shows snap in his hands and flashes ability to press offensive linemen into their backfield. … Tied for team-lead with 6.5 sacks in 2015 but 4.5 of those sacks came versus marginal offensive lines (Oregon State, Penn State and Rutgers) and his sack versus Michigan State was a protection breakdown."
- #69 Taco Charlton: "Power-based bass rusher that does a good job of using his long arms and explosive power to get into offensive linemen's pads, and then grinds through contact. … Good but not elite first-step quickness. Solid lateral agility and redirect skills for size."
- #77 Mason Cole: "Better suited for pass pro inside. … Takes good angles and has very good range. At his best as a run blocker when on the move. Has the feet to consistently win battle for initial positioning. Lacks heavy hands and is erratic with hand placement."
In addition, De'Veon Smith and Kyle Kalis(!) are ranked as fifth-rounders. Smith has no scouting and Kalis's ("Good angles. Knows assignments. Solid job locating assignments in space.") appears to be about a different person.
You'll note the omission of Amara Darboh and Maurice Hurst from these rankings. Both those guys will be draftable by the end of the year. I'd be another member or two of the secondary get there as well.
Drake Johnson is the guy you should hit with a forklift. I mean, if it's absolutely necessary. Please don't run Drake Johnson over. Or anyone, really. Do not run people over with forklifts. Yes, fine, Hitler. In that unusual case where a zombie nazi is threatening children or whatever, go ahead. Even in that situation, are we really calling a reanimated corpse "people"? I think that's not people.
Sorry, no politics.
"The world could be falling apart, and doomsday could be happening, and I'd be like, oh, look, there's a nice flower on the ground," he says.
If it were anyone other than Johnson, such positivity would feel contrived and feigned. But then Johnson waves his arms, talking with his hands like a grand raconteur, and says something like, "There's always something good in every situation," and, dammit, you've got to believe him.
If I was Drake Johnson I would get business cards with "Grand Raconteur" on them posthaste, while looking very carefully for lurking forklifts.
Around the league. Things happening in opponent camps:
- Penn State seems set to replace Carl Nassib with a couple of older guys who had 1.5 sacks between them a year ago. You'd think that would be a dropoff, but Nassib came out of nowhere a year ago.
- PSU is considering starting true freshman Michael Menet, a five star guard type.
- Rutgers QB Chris Laviano "edged" a grad transfer brought in to compete with him. I mostly mention this because I had no idea this went down last year: "Laviano will have a chance to win over Rutgers fans who had no love for him last season when he went five straight games without a touchdown pass and lost his cool by blasting them on social media after interpreting boos meant for then-coach Kyle Flood at his own show of toughness in the middle of a career-best game."
- MSU has five "co-starters" on the DL. One of them is a 275-pound DT who grad-transferred from Nebraska, a second is a redshirt freshman, and a third is a senior DE with eight career tackles. If that doesn't presage a major dropoff despite the presence of Malik McDowell I'm going to throw a shoe.
- Per Urban Meyer, H-back Curtis Samuel is OSU's "number one playmaker on offense." Mike Weber is "close" to being named the starting RB; after Brionte Dunn was booted his competition is "nah" and "???." Malik Hooker and Damon Webb are leading to start at safety; sounds like Webb is still a little combustible.
- OSU may start true freshman Michael Jordan at guard. Jordan was a well regarded recruit but not so well regarded that you shouldn't expect Michigan to wreck that dude.
I'm sure everyone will handle this news calmly and rationally.
— Jalil Irvin. (@only1_lil) August 23, 2016
2018 GA OG Jalil Irvin is now Michigan's third decommit in the last two days, joining 2017 DT Aubrey Solomon and 2018 TE/DL Leonard Taylor.
Let's try to take a step back on this. Solomon is a big loss, without question; his initial commitment was a huge surprise and it was always going to be a tough battle to keep the nearby SEC powers, especially Georgia, at bay. I don't think anyone expected Taylor's commitment to stick pretty much from the moment he made it. Irvin is another Georgia prospect who committed very early in the cycle and is seeing his rankings rise.
None of these are all that surprising when taken individually. Having all three occur over the course of two days makes for bad feels and bad headlines, but Michigan will be just fine for both the 2017 and 2018 classes.